The Mustangs punched their ticket to the Ontario University Athletics championships — which they'll host for their fifth year running — after defeating the Warriors 30-24 at home.
Coming into the matchup, Western University’s defence was in for a difficult matchup with the high flying Waterloo University offence.
But, by all accounts, the defence outplayed the offence on Saturday. The Warriors did score 24 points, but the Mustangs defence added seven of their own — on an interception returned for a touchdown by rookie Kojo Odoom, his second pick of the day.
The Warriors were able to post 381 yards of offence — but that is exactly 100 yards fewer than they averaged in the regular season. Even their 24 points trailed their regular season average by 12.
Truly, that was the story of the game: the Mustangs defence was good when they needed to be. They were able to, relatively, shut down the best offence in the OUA this year.
Despite incurring a loss, Waterloo’s quarterback, Tre Ford, was incredible on Saturday afternoon.
His stat line — 65 per cent passing for 226 yards and two scores, plus another 72 yards on the ground — doesn’t give him enough credit.
You can hear the sheer amazement that Western felt watching Ford play in head coach Greg Marshall’s post-game comments.
“Second and 13 for him is, like, second and one,” an impressed Marshall said after the game. “You know, third and six — just sit back and wait till they, someone misses me and then I'm gonna take off. Incredible athlete.”
Even as an opposing coach, Marshall had to stop Ford after the game to congratulate him on his effort.
“I talked to him a little bit at the end of the game,” explained Marshall. “You know what, to me, it's hard when someone — somebody wins and somebody loses. But at the end of the day, it's a game.”
While Ford put the Warriors offence on his shoulders and tried to carry them down the field, the Mustangs offensive unit struggled, but found a way to win.
Through the first half and the start of the third quarter, Western was able to find space, but not the end zone. The unit kept stalling around the 20 or 30 yard line, settling for four straight field goals from Marc Liegghio.
It might not have been flashy, but the kicker kept his team in the game.
Fourth-year running back Trey Humes summed up his team’s faith in Liegghio after the game.
“When you have a kicker like Legs — you know what I mean — as long as you're within that forty yard line you know that we can get a field goal at least,” said Humes.
The veteran half back was the first to score for the Mustangs, on a short 2-yard rush. The touchdown capped a strong day for the Ajax, Ont. native, and the overall running game of the Mustangs.
Humes racked up 121 yards on 16 touches and quarterback Chris Merchant exploded for 113 yards on nine carries during the playoff contest.
The passing game was not as successful, as Merchant and his receivers looked out of sync for most of the game. The Warriors defence even dropped three would-be interceptions.
To be fair, Merchant battled both a leg and arm injury during the contest. The quarterback’s willingness to play through pain didn’t surprise his teammates, though.
"Yeah, he's a warrior, man,” said Humes. “I tell him all the time and I try to pick him up whenever he's down, too. He's a warrior. He's the heart and soul of our offence and the heart and soul of our team. I love that guy.”
Ultimately, Merchant and the Mustangs offence found a way to win — and that’s all that matters now.
Western will have one week to heal up and correct their mistakes before they take on the McMaster Marauders in the Yates Cup next Saturday.